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Bromley United Services Club treasurer Patrick Reynolds jailed for fraud while he sunbathes in Spain
SITTING comfortably with a pint of bitter, Patrick Reynolds looks a happy man.
Pictured above in November 2008, he was celebrating the reopening of the Bromley United Services Club following the building of a new bar and hall.
Yet unknown to the retired servicemen around him, he had more reason than anyone else to be celebrating.
They were sitting next to a fraudster who had cheated the social club's members out of thousands of pounds for the building work to help fund a lavish lifestyle of Caribbean cruises and trips to his villa in Spain.
The scam began in 2007, when the club was in dire financial straits and hoped to raise money from the renovations by hiring the venue out for private functions.
It had already been forced to sell part of the premises in London Road, Bromley.
Reynolds, as the club's treasurer, was in charge of managing the club's finances and the cost of the refurbishments.
Yet the 71-year-old, of Exford Road, Grove Park, transferred £101,000 from the club into his own account.
When asked to account for the money, Reynolds came up with 13 fake invoices, some in his own handwriting and from non-existent companies.
One invoice for £57 was doctored to read £1,157.
Reynolds, an ex-serviceman himself, was yesterday jailed for four years in his absence at Croydon Crown Court - as he had breached his bail conditions to flee to his Spanish villa.
He had pleaded guilty to 14 fraud charges last month - one week before he was due to stand trial for the offences.
Reynolds was also disqualified as a company director for eight years.
Giles Bedloe, prosecuting, said the club's finances were "opaque" and that Reynolds had a "stranglehold" over them.
He said: "He was in a position to demand payment from the club under the guise of that money being spent on renovations.
"Therefore over the course of 18 months large sums of money were transferred to the defendant's personal account."
Mr Bedloe added: "Clearly the defendant enjoyed the complete trust and confidence of the committee on the club as they allowed him to have that sole control over financial matters and required little by way of accounting.
"When large sums were paid out they could not be reconciled in the club's book."
The court heard the actual work completed should have cost around £150,000 but the club had paid a higher amount.
Mr Bedloe said: "In the end the total cost of the works including the fraud appears to be in the region of a quarter of a million pounds, which is shocking considering what work was carried out.
"The full extent of the fraud may never be discovered because the club's records and documentation were frankly chaotic.
"There were considerable amounts of cash paid to the defendant before a system of cheques commenced, but there's no record of that cash."
Judge Heather Boucher said: "It was a difficult (financial) situation and he made it worse and deliberately so."
She added: "This was all done for him to have a more lavish lifestyle.
"It was done so he could enjoy himself in Spain and have his swimming pool and home refurbished here. The victims are the club's members."
An international arrest warrant has been issued and Reynolds will be extradited to the UK when he is located.